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Celeb Homes

Gangsters, Starlets, and Socialites: A Beverly Hills Mansion Comes With a Storied Past

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    Marlene Dietrich

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    Mirrors were part of Elsie de Wolfe's Art Deco interior design.

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    Marlene Dietrich in the dining room.

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    The front entry.

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    Marlene Dietrich at the estate during the 1930s.

With ties to old-school gangsters, socialites, legendary actors, a revolutionary interior designer, and a musical virtuoso, this Beverly Hills house has an intriguing past. And now -- just months after an anonymous international buyer purchased it -- the home is on the market for $29.5 million.

Built in 1926, the six-bedroom Spanish Revival might make a buyer wish the walls could talk. In the 1930s, heiress and socialite Countess Dorothy di Frasso bought the place and threw extravagant and wild parties that attracted the famous and infamous alike.

One such attendee was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the gangster who helped start the Las Vegas Strip. Di Frasso met Siegel during a party that began with a fake fight starting in the entrance and ending with boxing matches in the property's backyard.

In 1939, Siegel took di Frasso to Italy, where the two apparently tried to sell Italian dictator Benito Mussolini a new kind of explosive. The explosive, dubbed "atomite," turned out to be a dud.

While di Frasso traveled the world, her friend and legendary actress Marlene Dietrich lived at the famous mansion. Dietrich maintained a prolific romantic life, engaging in notable trysts with a number of A-listers. According to Vanity Fair, "When her daughter asked her later in life why she had had so many sexual partners, Marlene responded with a shrug and said, 'They asked.'"

Dietrich wouldn't have stayed at the residence if it weren't stylish. And at the time, the mansion was at the forefront of great design. Elsie de Wolfe, widely known as the mother of interior design, worked on this home. To this day, the home still has the same hand-painted wallpaper, mirrored walls, and art deco touches de Wolfe added.

There have been a few modern updates to the two-story house -- the renovated kitchen now has a huge fridge, center island with sink, and double ovens -- but remarkably little has changed.

During the 1940s, classical conductor Jose Iturbi bought the home, including the furnishings. Sadly, the furniture, silverware, and other items were sold off during an estate sale. Fortunately, a few interior items such as a jungle mural painted by artist Charles Baskerville remains.

In recent years, the home's had a turbulent sales history. It was sold to an apparel executive in 2008 for $7 million, but the exec apparently never moved in. It hit the market again earlier this year and sold for $23.5 million to someone who didn't even visit the property, according to The Wall Street Journal. Now, back on the market with a $6 million price bump, it's waiting for a buyer to write the home's next chapter.